How incorporating your CX bike all year round can translate into a successful race season.
Words by Nina Mastandrea / @ninamastandrea
We have all seen the popular hashtag. Designed to mark the beginning of early race season prep, the hashtag is a call to all ‘crossers that the best time of year has officially begun.
However, as we move into the early stages of summer, I’ve begun to see a trend that—in hindsight—I’ve seen in years past, but have failed to question.
“#crossiscoming !” Someone will post…only to be inevitably followed by a comment saying something to the effect of, “too early.”
Sure, cyclocross race season is limited to ~September–~January, but why should we be made to feel ‘cross bikes are somehow off limits until the colder, muddier, nastier conditions? It sounds crazy! But it’s the truth.
The fallacy started to bug me when I realized that, in the cycling world, ‘cross is the sole exception to the rule which states “practice makes perfect.” For ‘cross it feels more like “practice makes perfect…except you can only practice starting mid-summer….at the earliest.” Huh???
Therefore, this is my call to anyone who’s ‘cross shred-sled is currently collecting dust in their garage or living room. Take advantage of the warm, sunny days of spring and summer to work on cornering, bunny hopping, mounting, dismounting or anything else you’d like to have polished and ready to go come fall.
Another way to make ‘cross skill practice fun (as if it wasn’t already fun enough) is to play “follow the leader.” Grab a few friends and follow each other around a course of your choice. Completing a particular skill with friends may give you the confidence boost needed to tackle that otherwise daunting skill.
I like to incorporate skills practice after my prescribed ride/workout when I’m just a touch tired (this will simulate how you may feel during a race) and also so I don’t have to worry about wearing myself out before my prescribed ride. Remember that this is just about playing on your bike and trying out new things (or dialing in old things)…keep it fun!
You don’t have to work on skills for very long either, just ride how you feel. Fifteen minutes a day, a few times a week, will make a massive difference come time to lineup at your first race of the season.
Speaking of lining up…
Another great skill to work on that you will always encounter during a race is your start. Practice on various grades (uphill, downhill, flat), terrain (dirt, grass, gravel), sitting on your seat or hovering over your top-tube as well as what gear you might want to start in. Practice making a smooth exit while simultaneously clipping in and taking off like a rocket. Gather those same friends I mentioned above and start together closely side-by-side to simulate a crowded race start.
A tip I gathered from some pro CX riders is to actually complete some of your workouts on your ‘cross bike (I felt like a dummy when realized I hadn’t thought of that myself). I wouldn’t worry about doing this until the season starts looming in, but this is a great way for you to become really familiar with your ‘cross bike fit again (should you have taken a hiatus).
These and many more ideas are on the horizon, but the main takeaway here is: No matter what the calendar says, if you want to ride your bike, ride that bike! You, and your cyclocross season, will be better off because of it.
For some additional insight, check out this great Cyclocross Magazine “Technique Thursday” column which covers riding your ‘cross bike in the off-season. You can read that article here.